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Are B-Schools Hedging Their Bets On In-Person Classes This Fall?

A survey conducted this month by a global graduate business school association shows that as MBA classes begin, most B-schools continue to plan for fully in-person instruction this fall. But a significant number are hedging their bets, and schools’ career services offices are far more likely to continue to operate remotely or in a hybrid capacity.

MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance released the results of its latest field survey Wednesday (August 25) showing that more than three-quarters of surveyed schools plan to have “close to 100%” in-person instruction for the start of the 2021-2022 school year, which is already underway at many schools, corroborating Poets&Quants‘ findings in a July exploration of the fall plans of 100 leading B-schools in the United States.

However, a resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the Delta variant — particularly in the southern region of the U.S. — appears to be sparking a reappraisal, with nearly one-fifth of the schools surveyed by MBA CSEA now saying they plan for a hybrid approach to instruction.


MBA CSEA is a global association for employers and individuals in graduate business career services, with more than 800 members representing more than 250 business schools and corporations. Its latest survey was conducted August 16-20; of 107 schools responding, 88% were from North America, 8% from Europe, 3% from Asia-Pacific, and 1% from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The three-question survey’s chief finding: A strong majority of schools — 78% — still plan for nearly all classes, MBA and otherwise, to be in-person. But 19% say their classes will be hybrid, or “around 50/50 in-person,” while 1% will have “most or all virtual” classes. Around 2% of respondents have programs are already completely virtual.

The survey found a much more divided response on its second question: “For the start of the 2021-2022 school year (current/upcoming season), in which mode are most of your career center programs and activities?” One-third — 33% — responded that most or all programs and activities will be virtual, while only 18% said most will be in-person. Another 26% said career center programs will be “50/50,” while 23% said they will be “hybrid.”


Megan Hendricks of the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance. Courtesy photo

In another contrast between schools’ expectations for students and staff, the survey’s third and final question found another sharp divide: In response to the prompt, “For the start of the 2021-2022 school year (current/upcoming season), are your staff expected to be on campus/in-person for career center programs or activities?” more than half of schools — 54% — said either that programs will be conducted “around 50/50 in-person, or there is a flex work program,” while fewer — 43% — said activities will be “close to 100% in-person.” A small number (3%) said that most staff will work remotely.

Survey respondents also provided write-in responses, excerpts of which were released with the survey. They include:

  • “Allowing employer programs to be virtual upon employer requests”
  • “Activities and decisions are driven by local public health mandates”
  • “Weekly Covid testing for staff, students & faculty”
  • “Vaccine and mask mandates are in place”
  • “Staff are in the office a few days a week on a rotating schedule”
  • “Staff are on a gradual return to campus”

Two write-in responses are notable in the context of rising Delta variant cases:

  • “Staff are not happy about mandated returns to campus. Some prefer remote work; others prefer stricter Covid restrictions”
  • “Events are being held virtual to ensure schools don’t have to cancel due to Covid spread or changes in lockdown procedures”

Megan Hendricks, executive director of MBA CSEA, says the write-in responses included in the survey are not necessarily a list of the most frequent responses. “Most of the schools provided unique responses that were specific to their school,” she tells Poets&Quants. “The two items on the list that were most frequently stated were: ‘activities and decisions are driven by local public health mandates,’ and ‘staff are in the office a few days a week on a rotating schedule.’

“There was one school that mentioned a vaccine and mask mandate, but I can tell you from the conversations I’m having with schools that there are many more that have them.”


In an analysis of the top 100 ranked U.S. schools and several from Europe, Poets&Quants found in July that all have announced plans to open for in-person instruction when their full-time MBA students arrive this month and in September. While most still had not begun demanding that students be vaccinated, many — including nearly all the top-25 schools — strongly encourage it.

More recently, with one-third of all new Covid-19 cases now in Texas and Florida, the Delta variant of the virus is forcing business schools to alter their fall schedules.